Review: Sansaire Searing Kit
Cook one of the best hunks of meat of your life and moments before it goes out to the table, it will almost certainly look like a great, gray blob. Get a nice sear on it, though, and suddenly you’re talking turkey. Or honey-browned ham. Or perfectly pink standing rib roast.
Sansaire Searing Kit
WIRED: A huge, powerful flame that paints a sear on the outside of fatty cuts of meat cooked sous vide.
At $160, there’s a justifiable temptation to cobble something together from the hardware and kitchen supply stores that performs nearly as well.
But back to that blob, which you’d first cook sous vide (the technique where protein is sealed inside an airtight plastic bag and cooked in a water bath held at a precise temperature, say 135°F/ 57°C for a medium-rare steak). After you get that to sear, you’ve got two good options: The first is to get a skillet screaming hot and throw your protein right on there. It’s an imperfect solution as that ham might be fall-apart tender and hard to manipulate. Plus, there will be difficult-to-reach crevices that aren’t even touching the heat.
Option two is much more fun: Hit it with a blowtorch. It’s a total crowdpleaser that also gets heat in all the nooks and crannies. Of course, you need the right tools—so I put the Sansaire Searing Kit to the test. Let’s be clear: This isn’t a job for the wimpy ‘kitchen torch’ from Bed Bath & Beyond you used once to caramelize the top of a crème brûlée, then lost in the back of your gadget drawer. And thankfully, the Sansaire Searing Kit is a blowtorch beefy enough to be appreciated by a welder.
Blowtorch options in general are getting better and more numerous. Chefs favor professional-style models like BernzOmatic’s TS 7000 and TS 8000, more often used for soldering metal. More recently, high-end food and booze nerd Dave Arnold introduced the Searzall, which has something of a cult following despite a reputation for being finicky. The BernzOmatics use a concentrated flame, which allows you to paint on a dark sear in a thin line. The Searzall, on the other hand, acts like a giant baffle, diffusing the flame and turning your propane tank into a handheld broiler.
But neither one really looks like something that belongs in an amateur’s kitchen—and that’s where the Sansaire Searing Kit comes into play. While the Searzall, with its wire frame and wide-mouthed mesh nozzle end, would fit in at a steampunk convention, Sansaire’s smooth, white torch resembles something you’d buy at the Apple Store.
The Searing Kit is the fruit of a partnership between BernzOmatic and Seattle sous vide manufacturer Sansaire. The torch is a lightly-modified BernzOmatic, with most of the difference at the business end of the nozzle, where it’s noticeably wider than regular torches. The handle would look equally at home on a Stormtrooper’s belt and in a fancy kitchen.
I took mine to the first thing I saw in my kitchen, a desiccated lime at the bottom of the fruit bowl. I blasted it, completely buffeting the thing in flame and making it look like an early 60s Soviet Vostok return capsule hitting the atmosphere.
For my first real test, I cooked a pair of pork butts sous vide for 24 hours then took the Sansaire torch to them, and the results were equally impressive. Dinner guests stood and watched while the fat on the exterior instantly crackled as the torch effortlessly painted the exterior with an impressive sear. Dinner was fantastic.
I showed the torch to chef friends who stuck a few slices of pork belly on a sheet pan and did a quick comparison between the “standard” BernzOmatics (their go-to torches) and the Sansaire—the Sansaire won hands down thanks to its speed and control.
Later, I nudged up against some of the limits of the torch when cooking pork loin chops sous vide for a group. I lined up six chops on a rack and blasted the flat sides under the heat, (Sansaire says it hits 2,200°F and an impressive 876 watts per square inch) but that’s where things got weird. The tops blanched, but were slow to brown, yet the fatty sides of the neighboring chops crisped right up. The tops, I realized, seared slowly because there’s so little intramuscular fat in them. I swapped to the more concentrated flame of the BernzOmatic TS 8000 and made better progress, but the difference wasn’t huge. The real solution would have been fattier meat. I finished the remaining chops on a skillet.
The Searing Kit comes with other bells and whistles as well. The torch has its own wide-based black and white propane bottle, which looks great and is very stable on the countertop. You can swap it out at some cookware stores, but to Sansaire’s credit, you can also use standard propane and MAP-Pro (a fuel that burns at a higher temperature) bottles from your local hardware store. This is offset by the befuddling lack of a flame adjustment knob on the torch like the BernzOmatics have, which would be particularly nice for a more delicate sear on something like chicken skin or a creme brûlée. The Kit also comes with a searing rack that’s tall and made of beefy stainless steel and an accompanying drip tray. Not essential hardware, but something you’ll appreciate more after you warp a flimsy half-sheet pan and/or melt the Formica countertop underneath it.
The tricky part? The kit costs $160. You could get a TS 8000 and a propane tank at Home Depot, then find a nice rack and drip pan at the kitchen supply store on the way home and still save 60 or 80 clams, though it won’t work quite as well.
If you’re cooking a lot of roasts and other large, fatty cuts, or dinner-for-two portions of lean cuts, and you’re ok with those limitations, the Sansaire torch is a powerful tool. Really, the perfect searing torch hasn’t been created yet, but this one is the best attempt yet. Every part of the Searing Kit is built like a rock, looks great in the kitchen, and has plenty of entertainment power to boot.